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Building Teamwork

Michael Jordan – the hall of fame bound professional basketball player once remarked "Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships." He would know.

If you examine companies (or departments within companies) that consistently reach their business plan objectives, you’ll find teamwork is a major contributing factor. That being said, why is it that most employees feel that working as a team is rare in today’s office environment?

The answer often rests in three areas:
Clarity, Ego & Respect.

Clarity - or a lack thereof, is a factor that often undermines team efforts. This occurs in two areas:

  • Clearly defining what the primary objective is.
  • Providing a clear understanding of how each team member’s performance will contribute to the group’s success.

Address these two areas and you’ll see a lot less "finger pointing" when the going gets tough. And it’s precisely when the going gets tough that many teams are truly tested.

The goal or mission should be measurable ("Increase revenue by 12% over last year", or "Complete the first phase of the new marketing campaign by June 1st".) When the goal is measurable, the team will know whether or not they achieved it.

Helping each team member recognize how their performance influences others, as well as how it impacts reaching the primary objective, can make a significant difference. A good way to begin is to involve every team member in the process as early as practical. Quality people will tend to give their "buy-in" more readily when they are involved in creating the plan.

Ego – Harry Truman once said "It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t care who gets the credit." Every manager should take this message to heart. A big part of inspiring others to do their best is to instill the belief that the manager succeeds when the team succeeds. All too often, managers – and team members as well – let their ego get in the way. And it takes more than lip service. Members of a work force can generally detect whether a manager or co-worker has truly set their own ego aside for the good of the group or goal. Reaching group objectives is much more difficult (and unlikely) if egos get in the way. Conversely, when each team member can focus on the challenges (and not the egos) and all the oars are in the water rowing in the same direction, anything can be accomplished.

Respect - When workers feel respected, good things happen. And an organization that fosters mutual respect has a dramatic advantage over one that does not. When people make mistakes (and they will), they should never be criticized in public. The old adage "Praise in public, criticize in private" has stool the test of time because doing so drives the right behavior. It helps people preserve a level of self-respect. It also encourages people to "think outside the box" without the fear of public reprisal. Give credit where it’s due and always make criticism constructive.

So the next time you observe an organization or department reach their business objective, I’ll wager goals were clearly defined, egos were held in check and mutual respect was present in the workplace. Building a strong team isn’t easy, but there are few things more rewarding.

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